【Local】K-pop tourism gives new breath to HK travel industry

The Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), one of the major South Korean pop music awarding ceremony, has drawn Hong Kong people’s attention with the participation of some of the top singers, actors and celebrities not just in South Korea but also China, Hong Kong and other countries. The event signifies the increasing attraction of K-pop artists to Hong Kong fans, and has become a milestone for concert tourism which emanates from Japan and South Korea to this city.

 

Concert tourism is a part of the tourist industry that provides economic boost and employment opportunities to the target cities by organizing concerts and travel packages to bring fans/tourists to support their idols in concerts held in various overseas spots.

 

Concert tourism in Japan and South Korea

Concert Tourism is well developed in Japan and Korea. Japanese popular music (J-pop) groups, such as AKB48 and Morning Musume together with female singers Mano Erina, are famous for providing travelling party packages for their fans. Fans, local or overseas, who have registered with the relevant official fan clubs, can join these parties of two to three days in length. They can include sightseeing with their idols and mini concerts (See ticket of a fan club bus party below).

 

South Korea, which has overtaken Japan in this popular trend, has also further developed the concert tour package. For examples, SM Entertainment provides fan packages which include air tickets and front section seats in relevant concerts. Meanwhile, the Incheon city government provides free concert tickets for the Incheon Korean Wave Concert to tourists who spend well in the city: Any purchase, even a pack of candy, will count towards the offer. Again, the city government will reward the generous spenders with good seats at the concert (See below the logo of SMTown  – the umbrella group for artists under SM Entertainment, and  a sample ticket for the Incheon Korean Wave Concert).
MAMA’s experience, Hong Kong’s potential

MAMA is a great example, showing the possibility of developing concert tourism in Hong Kong. The event is held annually by CJ E&M Corporation, which started taking the event outside of Korea in 2009 and came to Hong Kong in 2012. “Hong Kong is the biggest economic and cultural center in East Asia. It is also the bridge connecting Korea, Japan and East Asia with Greater China, and it is a convenient place for fans from other countries to come to,” said Mnet representative Sin Hyeong Gwan.

 

Statistics show that visitors from South Korea to Hong Kong rose nearly 10%to 95,232 in November 2013 from 86,841 in the same month a year ago. It was during this period that MAMA changed its concert location from the 7,000-seat Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to the Arena at the Asia World-Expo which has 10,880 seats. Apart from the increase in the box office, the event also created employment opportunities such as back stage helpers, technicians, translators and even raised the sales of glow sticks used by the audience at the shows.
Kun Yang Co., Ltd., a Korean barbeque restaurant chain operating in Hong Kong and sponsor of the concerts, provided lucky draw winners from among their customers with MAMA tickets. The restaurant, BBQ7080, also saw a surge in business across all its outlets. “The total amount of orders increased in all the branches since most of the customers spent at least $500 each to participate in the lucky draw for   the MAMA tickets,” said a staff member from BBQ7080.

 

 

Hong Kong clearly has become an attractive place for concert tourism:  The city recorded a one percentage point growth in movie and concert-related visitors, bringing this tourism sector to five percent of all tourists in 2013. During the year, a total of HK$800 million from concert ticket box offices has been recorded, representing HK$2.162 billion in gross production revenue. This includes revenue recorded by the retail sector and, hotel and catering industry. Also, an increase in concert tourism from the Pacific region was noted, as visitors from Mainland China, South & Southeast Asia and Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, all posted a one percentage point rise during the year to six, three and three percent, respectively.

 

However, concert tourists complained about the lack of a packaged concert tourist service in Hong Kong. “I joined some of the packages by SM Entertainment for Super Junior (a K-pop group from South Korea) to follow them all over the world,” said Miss Chen, a fan from Taiwan, “But this time, I came to Hong Kong by myself since there was no concert tourism package.”  Chen financed her trip to Hong Kong by selling memorabilia of the singers that she had made herself. (See photo below).
Can Hong Kong promote concert tourism for own stars?

No one knows when this hot Korean wave will cool off, just as the Japan wave did about five or so years ago. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s popular music artists also have the potential to be the stars of concert tourism. “When a mini concerts or a birthday party is held, over a hundred mainland fans will come to Hong Kong to join it,” said Waiyee, representative of the local pop group Twins. “There were also fans from Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia,” she added. In the last Twins concert, 200 fans from mainland and around 50 fans from Southeast Asia came to Hong Kong to attend it.. Other local artists, such as Andy Lau, Joey Yung and Raymond Lam, all have international fan clubs which would support a concert tour,” said Waiyee.

 

A major obstacle to further development of concert tourism is the shortage of large venues. In Seoul, Jamsil Sports complex provides 69,000 seats for concerts usage, while in Japan the Five Domes can each house 30,000-60,000 people. But there is no such ‘dome’ in Hong Kong, and the two frequently used arenas – the AsiaWorld-Expo and the Hong Kong Coliseum can house just over 10,000 each. In March 2014, the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) published a research report on public opinion on the development of concert and performance commissioned by Performance Industry Association, and showed that more than 30% of the respondents had attended pop concert or musical festivals in Hong Kong during the year. In addition, 20% of the respondents had participated in similar events abroad in the past few years. Nearly 65% of the respondents agreed that concerts would give a boost to Hong Kong tourism and stimulate local consumption. Also, the majority agreed that the development of a larger venue will depend on transportation facilities and government support.

 

Unlike the general perception that a Korean wave is hitting Hong Kong, the HKUPOP research results showed that those who attended overseas concerts or musical events are mainly in the Greater China region, including mainlanders at 37%, concertgoers from Macau at 20% and from Taiwan 14%. Only 3.0% of those respondents with overseas experiences attended concerts in South Korea and only 2.0% in Japan, the report showed.

 

by Chung Suet Ying

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